Now reviled as dilapidated and obsolete, the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum nevertheless has a proud history, though much of it belongs to the rapidly fading past. The NHL's second-oldest arena (after neighboring and newly renovated Madison Square Garden) cost $32 million to build and sits on the former Mitchel Field airbase. It hosted its first event (a New York Nets ABA hoops game) on Feb. 11, 1972. The following fall, the expansion New York Islanders took to the ice. They've called it home ever since, but will be moving to new digs in Brooklyn in 2015.
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Seating 16,234 spectators, and with good sight lines, the coliseum has seen its share of classic hockey, including the Islanders' four Stanley Cup championships. Here are the 10 greatest NHL moments that took place in the old barn, as chosen by SI's Brian Cazeneuve.
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After winning three straight overtime games in their division sem-final series, the Islanders eliminate the Capitals in six with a 5-3 victory. Pierre Turgeon caps the win with an empty-net goal off a turnover by Washington forward Dale Hunter. The Caps' captain then takes out his frustration by shoulder-checking Turgeon into the boards long after the play ended. Steve Thomas leads the charge of Isles piling on Hunter, who receives a then-record 21-game suspension for his gratuitous hit. Turgeon suffers a separated shoulder and misses the next round, which the Isles win by beating Pittsburgh in seven.
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Wayne Gretzky scores four goals as the Campbell Conference defeats the Wales, 9-3, in the only NHL All-Star Game ever played at Nassau Coliseum. The Great One earns MVP honors for his efforts at the 35th annual classic, and amazingly was off the score sheet entirely for the first 46 minutes of a game that was only 3-2 going into the third period.
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As the 1984 postseason begins, the Isles seem ripe for the taking when the Rangers score first in each game of their first-round series against the four-time Cup champs and hold them without a power-play goal. Don Maloney sends the nerve-wracking, decisive Game 5 into overtime with a stunning (and disputed) tying tally with only 39 seconds to go in the third period. Then low-scoring defenseman Ken "Wolfman" Morrow (second from right) becomes an unlikely hero by driving a screen shot past Rangers goalie Glen Hanlon at 8:56 of OT to keep the Islanders' Drive for Five alive.
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Anchored in net by Battlin' Billy Smith, the Isles rattled off a then-NHL record 15 consecutive wins (including nine at home) capped by John Tonelli's goal with 47 seconds left in the third period against the Colorado Rockies. (Final score: 3-2.) The game also marks the return of beloved former Isles netminder Chico Resch to the Coliseum as a visiting player. (The Penguins, losers of four of the Isles' magic 15, snap the streak 24 hours later with a 4-3 win at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena.)
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Butch Goring scores twice in the first period of Game 5 as the Islanders beat the Minnesota North Stars, 5-1, to capture their second straight Stanley Cup. Playing since the second game of the series with a 40-inch scar across his lip and tongue, Goring receives the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP while stalwarts Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin see reduced minutes in the final game because of injuries.
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Mike Bossy scores two goals, including the game-winner, as the Islanders defeat the Canadiens, 4-1, to take the Wales Conference Final and advance to their fifth straight Cup final. With the victory, the Isles, who had lost the first two games in Montreal, capture their 19th consecutive postseason series, a record not only for NHL teams, but for all North American sports clubs, and one that is not likely to be broken. In the game, Clark Gillies and Pat Flatley also score for the Isles and Denis Potvin records his 98th playoff assist, surpassing the career mark held by Habs' legend Jean Beliveau.
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The Isles' Cup fourpeat would have ended prematurely if not for their dramatic comeback against the Penguins in the deciding fifth game of their opening round. New York trails 3-1 in the third period against the scrappy Pens before goals by Mike McEwen at 14:33 and John Tonelli at 17:39 send the game to overtime where Tonelli strikes again at 6:19 of the extra session to propel the Isles on their way to their third consecutive championship.
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During a 7-4 win over Quebec, the game's ultimate sniper, Mike Bossy, joins Maurice Richard as the then-only players in NHL history to record 50 goals in 50 games. Bossy scores twice in the closing minutes, including the milestone tally with 1:29 to play in the third period. (A season later, upstart Wayne Gretzky would need just 39 games to score his 50th goal.)
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The Islanders complete a four-game sweep of the up and coming Oilers and win their fourth straight Stanley Cup. The Isles hold Wayne Gretzky without a goal in the series and their big guns -- Bryan Trottier, John Tonelli and Mike Bossy -- combine for three in a two-minute span of the first period of Game 4. Ken Morrow secures the silverware with an empty-net tally. Bossy finishes with a then-NHL record five game-winning goals in the playoffs, but Billy Smith wins the Conn Smythe Trophy.
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Up three games to two, Bobby Nystrom's first goal of the match gives the Isles a 4-2 lead late in the second period of Game 6. Then the favored Flyers, who had set an NHL record by going 35 games without a loss during the regular season, tie the score on third-period tallies by Bob Dailey and John Paddock. The packed Coliseum is on edge during the tense overtime until Nystrom tips John Tonelli's pass past Pete Peeters at 7:11 to give the Isles their first Stanley Cup.
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